Remote Sensing Space Systems Act

An Act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Pierre Pettigrew  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment regulates remote sensing space systems to ensure that their operation is neither injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces or to Canada’s conduct of international relations nor inconsistent with Canada’s international obligations.

In order to accomplish this, the enactment establishes a licensing regime for remote sensing space systems and provides for restrictions on the distribution of data gathered by means of them. In addition, the enactment gives special powers to the Government of Canada concerning priority access to remote sensing services and the interruption of such services.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-11, an act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings.

This is a very important piece of legislation that deals with an issue at the heart of our parliamentary democracy.

A government press release issued on the same day that Bill C-11 was introduced noted that the bill is an important part of the federal government's broader commitment to ensure transparency, accountability, financial responsibility and ethical conduct in the public sector.

With a long list of deplorable examples of government waste and mismanagement like Ms. Stewart, Mr. Radwanski, the motley crew involved in the sponsorship scandal, and the latest, Mr. Dingwall, how can anyone believe that the Liberals are seriously committed to providing real protection for whistleblowers who might expose the misconducts of their cronies?

In the 1993 election campaign, the Liberal Party promised whistleblower legislation in a letter to the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Twelve years later public sector workers are still waiting for legislation that will thoroughly protect them.

My riding of Carleton—Mississippi Mills is home to thousands of public sector employees who work all over the National Capital Region and who, to this day, remain vulnerable to reprisals from their employers should they speak out and reveal wrongdoings in their workplace. Whistleblowers play an invaluable role in cleansing our institutions of rot and corruption and we should be encouraging not discouraging them from coming forward with information.

Donald C. Rowat, professor emeritus of political science at Carleton University, an expert on whistleblower laws, stated that whistleblowers should have strong protection for two main reasons. First, if they detect wrongdoing and reveal it publicly, their accused superiors are almost sure to take vigorous retaliatory action against them. Second, if they do not reveal the wrongdoing for fear of retaliation, it may never be revealed and the public interest will seriously suffer.

Having worked inside a large government organization, I know that the potential whistleblower's fear of retaliation is well founded because nearly always, those accused of wrongdoing are higher in the organization. They can easily take action against their whistleblowing subordinates. Because there is a tendency in any organization to protect its reputation by denying any wrongdoing, it normally closes ranks and ignores or even supports the retaliatory action.

Just remember the code we learned as school children, that we do not rat on people. Those who ratted were disdained by their friends. It is no different in the adult world. The individual must bravely go against the powerful organization.

As we know, in nearly every case the whistleblower ends up losing his or her job or suffering some other form of retaliation or both. It takes real fortitude and integrity to be a whistleblower. If we already had effective whistleblower legislation, how many cases of waste, mismanagement and wrongdoing would have been remedied and how many taxpayers' dollars would have been saved?

Professor Rowat noted in his comments on whistleblower legislation that the federal government appointed a public service integrity officer in November 2001 who was supposed to investigate whistleblower allegations of wrongdoing. However, because he was appointed by the government under the policy issued by the Treasury Board, instead of a law passed by Parliament, his powers of protection were weak. He is not independent of the government and does not have the power to make binding decisions or to publicize wrongdoing.

As a result his office has been criticized as feeble and toothless based on a policy of internal rather than public disclosure. In a recent annual report he has admitted that potential whistleblowers' fear of retaliation are so great that very few come forward. Most of the complaints he has received involve personal employment grievances rather than the misdeeds of senior bureaucrats.

The professor went on to say that the provisions to protect whistleblowers in Bill C-25, the predecessor to Bill C-11, were inadequate. Anonymity was not guaranteed and the bill provided no fines or sanctions against employers who retaliated, no financial or other compensation for blatant retaliation, and no rewards for whistleblowers who save taxpayers' money as laws elsewhere have done.

Former Privy Council President Coderre claimed that the bill struck a balance between encouraging public servants to report wrongdoing and protecting against disgruntled employees with an axe to grind. This reveals that he was not clear on the concept. He picked the wrong balance.

Protection against disgruntled employees is a minor problem. The real problem is the protection of whistleblowers. The law must strike a balance between the vast power of the bureaucracy and the weakness of potential whistleblowers by providing enough protection and incentive for them to be willing to risk the wrath of superiors.

Whistleblowers are employees who exercise freedom of expression rights to challenge institutional abuses of power or illegality that harm or threaten the public interest. Whistleblowers are often the best qualified, the brightest, as well as those employees most committed to the longevity of the organization. It is this loyalty that in fact causes them to risk everything in speaking out. They represent the highest ideals of public service and loyalty to the long term interests and sustainability of the organization.

In its original form Bill C-11 would have done more harm than good to whistleblowers. Thanks to a lot of hard work by Conservatives in committee and some major reversals by the government, we now believe the opposite to be true.

The bill originally required whistleblowers to report to the president of the Public Service Commission, who is not independent. Thanks to pressure from the Conservative Party, the government has tabled amendments to create an independent commissioner to hear and investigate disclosures of wrongdoing. He will report to Parliament.

However, the bill remains flawed. The Conservative Party moved several other amendments that were rejected by other parties in committee. Conservatives are not the only ones who find this disheartening. As Ms. Nycole Turmel, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, noted in her appearance before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates last year, “the government's reluctance to go the distance and get it right is more than a little disquieting”. Conservatives still feel that these changes should be made, and if the bill were to pass, we would make these changes when we form the government after the next election.

The bill does not prohibit reprisals against those who make disclosures of wrongdoing to the public, the media, the police, the Auditor General, the Information Commissioner or anyone outside the narrow process prescribed by the bill. A Conservative government would protect all whistleblowers.

Bill C-11 changes the Access to Information Act to allow departments to refuse to release information about internal disclosures of wrongdoing for five years. This was originally 20 years, but was amended in committee. The Conservative Party would like to see this provision removed completely and the Information Commissioner agrees. If this provision had been in effect at the time, taxpayers would still not know that their money had been siphoned off from the sponsorship program and funnelled into the Liberal Party.

Cabinet can arbitrarily remove several government bodies from the protection of Bill C-11. For example, if they choose, cabinet can remove the Bank of Canada, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the Canada Council for the Arts, the CBC, the National Arts Centre Corporation, the Public Sector Pension and Investment Board and Telefilm Canada. Conservatives tried to change this in committee, but the other parties refused. A Conservative government would ensure cabinet cannot remove any government body from the scope of the act.

Unfortunately, the scope of the bill is still too limited in its application. Specifically, the Canadian Forces, CSIS and CSE are excluded from the provisions of the act that provides for access to a neutral and independent body. The application of this bill in their work environments will encourage silence rather than disclosure.

Members of the Canadian Forces, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service and Communications Security Establishment are precisely the ones that should have whistleblower protection. Their work is veiled in secrecy. What better environment for wrongdoing to take place without consequences?

Members of these organizations need the powers of a neutral third party to protect the privacy and confidentiality of information while at the same time offering protection to whistleblowers. There is no valid basis for the exclusion of any government employees from the protection of the bill.

Since 1999 opposition MPs and senators have introduced 13 bills to protect whistleblowers. If the Liberals were really serious about this matter, they could have adopted the legislation of any one of these bills. Instead, they have waited until they are faced with a huge scandal and have acted to give the appearance that they are doing something.

I support the need for a whistleblowers bill to protect government from wrongdoing and also to protect those brave individuals who place their careers on the line to ensure that justice is done.

Bill C-11 certainly offers an improvement to the current situation, but it is flawed. What is really needed is legislation with no exclusions of any government employees regardless of the nature of their work, as well as real protection from reprisals. Until that happens we Conservatives consider that government whistleblower protection remains inadequate and incomplete.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Diane Marleau Liberal Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, regarding the bill that was tabled before the last elections, the committee had an opportunity to hear only a few witnesses. Even though it did a good job, it could not bring its work to completion. We knew that and we knew we would be proposing another bill. That is what the government did. It reviewed the recommendations of the committee that had reviewed Bill C-25, and it based itself on those recommendations.

A bill will always evolve over time. Such is the case with C-11 that was proposed to us. We knew it was not a perfect bill. Accordingly, we brought it forward and we requested that the committee deal with it after first reading. That is a way the government chose to demonstrate that it was expecting major changes. That is what we did. So, we have a bill which, hopefully, will be effective in protecting whistleblowers and in ensuring that we continue having a good government.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on behalf of the New Democratic Party caucus to share our views on Bill C-11, the whistleblower bill. I note technically it has a much longer name, but those of us who have been working on it for quite some time call it what it is. It is a bill to protect whistleblowers in the public service.

Today in debating Bill C-11 in the House we are experiencing a good, graphic illustration of the advantages of a minority Parliament. I hope you will not consider it out of order for me to explain my comment, Madam Speaker.

As recently as June 2005, Bill C-11 was dead. It had been on life support for 18 or so months leading up to that, but clearly by June 2005, the wheels had fallen off the bill. The ruling party was not listening to the wishes of the majority of the members of the House of Commons, which is the opposition in this situation. Because of the unique nature of minority parliaments, the will of Parliament was heard. With a minority Parliament the elected members are able to make manifest the will of Parliament instead of just the will of government.

The important thing to remember as we begin the debate is that through a process of consultation and cooperation with the other legitimately elected members of the House of Commons, we arrived at a package that we could support. We revitalized Bill C-11 by an exercise of cooperation, which is rare in my experience as a member of Parliament.

Let me can compare the seven years that I spent as an opposition member in a majority government situation to the last 16 months as a member of Parliament in a minority government. I can say it is a great deal more gratifying to be in a minority government situation where the spirit of cooperation is what guides us in the best interests of Canadians, instead of the exercise of absolute power vested in the majority party which may hold power at any given time. We should remind ourselves that in our electoral system even that majority party may not represent the majority of Canadians. It is not unusual to form a majority government with 36% or 37% of the vote, but because of the nuances and inconsistencies in the first past the post system, that is the arrangement we have.

In beginning the debate on Bill C-11, we should acknowledge, recognize and pay tribute to this unique moment in history where we actually have all Canadians being represented in the decision making process of Parliament. It is good for Canadians. It is certainly good in this example.

Let me preface my remarks on the specifics of Bill C-11 by saying that in my experience as a working person and as a leader of a trade union in my past life, I know that good managers want to know what is going on in their enterprise and good managers welcome whistleblowing. It is only managers with something to hide who try to resist and oppose any kind of whistleblowing exercise. We should keep that in mind as we go into this process because it is this unique minority government's opportunity that may be leading us toward an era of greater transparency and accountability, ethics, morals and values, reintroducing some of those elements that have clearly slipped away in the exercise of power in recent Canadian history at the federal government level.

My party is committed to good whistleblowing legislation. I had a private member's bill to that effect. When I became a member of Parliament in 1997, one of the first bills I had commissioned by the legislative drafting people of the House of Commons was whistleblowing legislation. In my experience as an advocate for employees as a trade union representative, I know that workers are vulnerable and are put in uncomfortable situations in the workplace where they wish to come forward with evidence of wrongdoing but do not feel safe or able to do so.

I know that is not an infrequent experience in my own workplace, in my own working life and certainly in today's public sector. That feeling was given even more weight in my view when as members of the government operations committee, we were charged with the task of investigating the office of the Privacy Commissioner in what has become known as the Radwanski affair. Never in Canadian history has there been a more graphic illustration of the need for whistleblowing protection for employees than in that glaring example of abuse, maladministration of funds and what has been characterized as wretched excess on the part of a public servant.

Clearly the privacy commissioner of the day broke faith with the Canadian people when he used his authority to his own personal advantage. However, even though the employees in his office knew full well that these abuses were taking place, they did not feel they could come forward to anyone because under the current regime, the person they would have to report it to would be their immediate supervisor who was the culprit himself. It is an impossible, untenable situation for the worker.

Even when we provided the protection of a non-partisan standing committee of the House of Commons to interview these employees about what they knew, the employees felt compelled to bring their own lawyers. Who can they trust if they cannot trust a non-partisan, all-party committee of their elected representatives? We are supposed to be on their side, as citizens of Canada and as employees in the public service. They still could not see fit to come forward and share the information they knew without bringing their own lawyers. That, perhaps more than anything, illustrated to me that the system as it stands is broken, unfair and does not in fact protect whistleblowers. If anything, whistleblowers, if they were looking at their own best interests and the best interests of their families, would keep their lips zipped and not share the information because no one would to guarantee that they could protect them if they did come forward.

We wrestled through that and through a number of incarnations of a proposal from the government side to alter the whistleblowing regime. Successive scandals with the government made it abundantly apparent that there was a need for a change of operations as it pertained to transparency and accountability of the government. It was put off and put off until it could be ignored no more and the public outcry was such that the Liberal government could not ignore the need for whistleblowing legislation. However its first overture toward correcting the regime, which was Bill C-25, was an insult to those of us involved. It was put forward during the period of time when the Liberals had a majority government and it was a farce.

Rather than an act to protect whistleblowers, we called it an act to protect ministers from whistleblowers. It was structured in such a way that the real defence mechanism was to protect the government from people who may come forward. We criticized it in a resounding way. My colleagues from the Bloc did a comprehensive analysis of the bill and also criticized it. All 14 witnesses, the experts in the field, the leading authorities in the rights of whistleblowers, nationally and internationally, came before the committee and said that we would be better off with nothing than with what was being proposed. It was resoundingly condemned and we really had to go back to the drawing table.

At that time we struck a subcommittee. I was proud to be the co-chair of a subcommittee of the government operations committee to revisit the issue of whistleblowing and to at least develop the framework under which we could see an acceptable whistleblowing protection regime developed. I co-chaired that committee with my colleague from Laval—Les Îles and I was proud that our small working group came back with recommendations that had, I believe, captured the sentiment of the nation and the authorities and collective wisdom of the people from whom we sought input.

I think we were faithful to the spirit of the representations made to our small working group but what came forward was not something that we could support.

When we started the round of hearing witnesses on Bill C-25, we heard from people in the trade unions, university professors, lawyers who had represented whistleblowers in the past and even some high profile whistleblowers who said that what was being proposed by the government would not protect them. Even the public service integrity officer, Mr. Keyserlingk, told the committee that even as the integrity officer of the country if he were a civil servant he would not come forward and divulge what he knew because he did not believe he could protect those people. We then knew that we were going nowhere.

The point has been made abundantly clear that any time civil servants disclose wrongdoing it is a very courageous act on their part. They are not doing it out of any self-interest. They are doing it because they feel a moral obligation to report wrongdoing in the public interest.

I should also point out, just to give credit where credit is due, that it is a courageous act on the part of any government to introduce legitimate whistleblowing protection legislation because it is opening the door and inviting people to come forward and tell people what they know that may be critical of the government. I admire any government that puts forward legitimate whistleblowing legislation and protection. It shows a self-confidence and a commitment to honesty, integrity and transparency that should be recognized.

I believe that with Bill C-11 we are approaching the point where I can make that statement, that Bill C-11 will in fact, in this form, with some amendments and modifications, perhaps, or some adjustments in the administration and the application and the regulation of this bill, give public servants the security they need to feel comfortable coming forward.

That came through directly because of this minority government situation, where the opposition parties, in the middle of June, made it abundantly clear that this bill was dead without the adjustments that we were seeking and the key fundamental adjustment was that the integrity officer, the actual commissioner as such, has to report to Parliament not to the minister. It was such a glaring oversight in the first incarnation of this bill that the whole process led to the minister responsible or, in other words, to government. In other words, the poor public servant was put in the position of blowing the whistle on something the government was doing and the report went to, guess who, the government which has the absolute power and control in the employer-employee relationship over that individual. It was completely unworkable.

In the scenario being proposed now by an amendment by the opposition parties, the new integrity commissioner would be a free standing officer of Parliament, an independent officer who reports only to Parliament. That is the fundamental difference that we are proud to have achieved by consultation, cooperation and perseverance at committee.

I am very grateful and glad that the opposition parties had the strength and the foresight to resist the temptation to accept the earlier offers that were made. Those of us who have been engaged in the struggle for true whistleblower protection for eight years were very tempted. It is very seductive to be offered some improvement in the situation. However, wisely and collectively, we disagreed and said that we could do better. We said that if we were going to be one of the eight countries in the world with legitimate whistleblowing legislation that we had to get it right the first time. We did not want to introduce some half-assed version that would still have civil servants vulnerable if they did not read the fine print and then have to revisit that five years from now and try to correct it. It is better that we were patient and waited for a better working environment because we ended up with a better bill.

Bill C-11, as we know it today, has gone through the committee stage. The government referred it to the committee stage before second reading, which is significant. It is much more difficult to achieve substantial amendments after a bill has achieved second reading. The fact that the committee had it in its hands at first reading meant that the House of Commons had never voted to adopt it in principle and, therefore, this substantive fundamental change was achievable at that stage. We are doing a compressed version of debating this at second reading and report stage all at once today.

I think the public servants can take some comfort in this bill. I am hoping that with correct supervision and administration and the right regulations associated with this bill, civil servants will be protected when they come forward with knowledge of wrongdoing and that their anonymity shall be guaranteed. I hope the report does not wind up in their bosses' hands so they would know who the person was who blew the whistle. When public servants put themselves in these situations, it is not just their own futures that they are putting at risk or at stake when they disclose wrongdoing, it is their families. It is their wife's and children's futures if they lose their job, economic security, et cetera, because they came forward for no personal gain. It is a sacrifice that many civil servants would be unwilling to make.

Let us think of the benefit to the public good if whistleblowers with knowledge of wrongdoing, waste or corruption, whatever it may be, were able to come forward. The savings are of unknown benefit to the government and, by extension, to the people of Canada. If we are sincere about eliminating waste, we want to know where waste exists and we want civil servants to feel comfortable in coming forward and sharing that information with us.

It is the culture of secrecy that allows corruption to flourish. If we are sincere about stamping out corruption, we need to create an environment that is transparent and open and where public servants who have knowledge of corruption may come forward and share that without putting their own personal economic stability at risk or fear any kind of subtle reprisals that may come back to haunt them.

I should point out how critical my party was when, within a week of the introduction of the whistleblowing legislation, such as it was, the Government of Canada fired the three most prominent whistleblowers in the country. I am talking about the officials at Health Canada who had the courage to come forward and warn the Canadian public about the bovine growth hormone. Even though they were being pressured by the industry and the government to approve these hormones for general use, they said no, that they were scientists and were fearful for the well-being of Canadians. They went public and blew the whistle on that .

I think those three courageous scientists are heroes and should have been given the Order of Canada, not summarily fired by the Government of Canada. However that more than anything perhaps illustrates the vulnerability and risk that public servants find themselves in if they do divulge knowledge of wrongdoing.

Having analyzed the bill endlessly over the last many years and having watched it evolve, I can safely say that the members of the caucus of the New Democratic Party welcome the opportunity to put forward whistleblower protection in the public service. The onus will be on us, I believe, if we support the bill at these stages, to monitor and follow the administration and application of this new legislation to ensure that the intent and spirit of the legislation is delivered and lived up to by the federal government because we still have to caution public servants that they need to know exactly what their rights and protections are before they come forward.

I am actually heartened by the fact that there is an element contemplated in Bill C-11 that incorporates the office of the president of the Public Service Commission who may in fact advise public servants as to their rights and the process involved in the disclosure of wrongdoing under the context of Bill C-11. Perhaps this new role for the president of the Public Service Commission would be helpful and valuable to public servants who may be offered counsel and advice--

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this second opportunity to speak to Bill C-11. I will remind hon. members that I spoke on this same bill in this House on Thursday, October 4, 2004. It will be interesting to look at the way the bill has evolved in keeping with the position of the Bloc Québécois and of members of all parties. On Thursday, October 4, 2004, when Bill C-11 was before the House prior to referral to committee, I said:

However, we will give this minority government the benefit of the doubt and see whether the Liberals will listen to us at committee and be open to making a few amendments, as far as the legislative process allows.

Subsequent to that wish, 47 amendments were proposed. There were problems, however, and I will quote myself again on that:

If the Liberals really want to make this a credible position; if they really want to honour part of the promise in their 1993 red book to restore confidence in the public service, elected officials and the government; then they must establish an independent position of commissioner with this bill. We said this about Bill C-25 and we say it again, and so do the Conservatives.

In another part of that same speech, I made reference to clause 24(1) of the bill:

24.(1) The President of the Public Service Commission may refuse to deal with a disclosure if he or she is of the opinion that:

(a) the public servant has failed to exhaust other procedures otherwise reasonably available;

That was the second problem we pointed out in 2004. I ended my speech as follows:

We hope that the Liberals will act in good faith and with an open mind.

Following that speech, there were eight months of discussions in committee. Many witnesses were heard, and 47 amendments have been presented today with a view to improving Bill C-11, to making it better.

A brief aside here, if I may, to mention the contribution made by someone who worked with me throughout the entire committee process and who is no longer here, because he was an intern. I wish to comment on the excellence of the program, and also of the intern in question. Jeff Bell, of British Columbia, was with me in committee for five of those eight months, for which I was very grateful.

We heard a number of very key witnesses, including Mr. Edward Keyserlingk, who gave us his comments on the actual situation. He was the public service integrity officer and he asked that this Treasury Board policy become law, so that the integrity commissioner would have all the necessary tools to do his job properly.

We heard many things regarding Bill C-11, but I think this legislation can be defined in three very specific points. Usually, when I begin a speech, I always remind people of the issue being discussed. We are debating Bill C-11, An Act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings. Let us summarize its content. The public servants who worked on it and who were with us throughout the process might find this summary somewhat simplistic. However, for the general public—those who are interested can read the whole bill—this legislation basically covers the three points that follow.

Bill C-11 provides for the appointment of an independent public service integrity commissioner. My friends from the Conservative Party said that it was thanks to them, to their ultimatum and to their good work, because they are good, strong and powerful. However, I managed to get them to recognize that this measure had been requested by everyone. Indeed, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP asked for it, as did all the witnesses heard, this since the beginning. There is unquestionably a degree of open-mindedness. First, the Liberals asked that this be put in the hands of the Public Service Commission. In response to the hon. member for Mississauga Centre, I will say that the main problem was that it was the minister who was tabling the report, while we want an independent officer of the House of Commons to do so.

Starting with Bill C-25, which was the forerunner to Bill C-11, between Bill C-11 in its first draft and Bill C-11 as it emerged following Committee review, the main victory for all witnesses who appeared before us in Committee, for the Bloc, the NDP and the Conservatives is that an independent commissioner will be appointed along the very same lines as the Auditor General, the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Commissioner of the Environment, with all the credibility and the recognition given to independent officers of the House of Commons. They will independently—however they wish, subject to the regulations governing them—table reports directly in the House of Commons. This is a great victory for civil servants, for public service employees who will be able to report any wrongdoing to a person they trust.

Secondly, this provides a statutory and formal framework to a civil servant who wishes to disclose a wrongdoing. What is a wrongdoing? That is an interesting question the committee discussed at length. The definition can be found in clause 8 of Bill C-11. I will read some excerpts from it.

This Act applies in respect of the following wrongdoings in or relating to the public sector:

(a)) a contravention of any Act of Parliament or of the legislature of a province, or of any regulations made under any such Act;

(b)) a misuse of public funds or a public asset;

(c) a gross mismanagement in the public sector;

(d)) an act or omission that creates a substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of persons, or to the environment, [other than a danger that is inherent in the performance of the duties or functions of a public servant];

The last part was subsequently added, account being taken of military personnel or RCMP officers. Their work can occasionally put their lives in danger.

(e)) a serious breach of a code of conduct established under section 5 or 6;

(f)) the taking of a reprisal against a public servant;

[(g)) knowingly directing or counselling a person to commit one of the wrongdoings set out in paragraphs above.]

The concept of wrongdoing has been defined well. As the Conservatives have pointed out—mind you, I do not want to engage in sensationalism when it comes to Bill C-11—there could be cases of the abusive use of public funds or serious mismanagement. People at the Royal Canadian Mint could have used and benefited from Bill C-11 to disclose this type of problem. The sponsorship scandal and the gun registry scandal could have been avoided if Bill C-11 had been in place.

A third point was made. First, there will be an independent commissioner. Second, wrongdoing was defined and anyone witnessing a wrongdoing now has the legal ability to disclose the situation. Third, and the last main point in my opinion, is that there will be protection from reprisal.

My colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville discussed this earlier, as did my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue. What happens to victims of reprisals? This also sparked lengthy discussions in committee. These questions come out in clauses 19, 20 and so on, under “Protection of persons making disclosures” in Bill C-11. Clause 19 states:

No person shall take any reprisal against a public servant.

It is very easy to write that into a bill, but if ever any reprisals are taken, what will happen? What can be defined as reprisal measures? The bill states:

If a public servant realizes 60 days after the date on which they knew, or in the Board’s opinion ought to have known, that the reprisal was taken, then they can make a complaint.

A person discloses a wrongdoing, waits for the entire process to be settled, is transferred laterally or protected because that is the law. They resume their duties. A month or two later, they realize they are a victim of reprisal, whether psychological or otherwise. They can make a complaint to the Board. More than that, the complaint can be presented after the same deadline mentioned in subsection 3, if the Board finds it appropriate to do so under the circumstances.

If a long time has elapsed, six months for instance, and it feels it is appropriate, the board may hear and make a determination on a complaint by a public servant who feels that a reprisal was taken against him or her.

On receipt of a complaint, the Board may assist the parties to the complaint to settle the complaint. The Board must hear and determine the complaint if it decides not to so assist or the complaint is not settled within a period considered by the Board to be reasonable in the circumstances.

What may be considered as a reprisal is also defined.

If the Board determines that the complainant has been subject to a reprisal taken in contravention of section 19, the Board may, by order, require the employer or the appropriate chief executive, or any person acting on behalf of the employer or appropriate chief executive, to take all necessary measures to

(a) permit the complainant to return to his or her duties;

(b) reinstate the complainant or pay damages to the complainant in lieu of reinstatement if, in the Board's opinion, the relationship of trust between the parties cannot be restored;

(c) pay to the complainant compensation in an amount not greater than the amount that, in the Board’s opinion, is equivalent to the remuneration that would, but for the reprisal, have been paid to the complainant;

(d) rescind any measure or action, including any disciplinary action, and pay compensation to the complainant in an amount not greater than—

(e) pay to the complainant an amount equal to any expenses and any other financial losses incurred by the complainant as a direct result of the reprisal.

The committee members and myself sincerely believe that we have covered all bases to ensure that a formal framework is clearly defined so as to prevent frivolous or vexatious complaints. Think of pressure tactics for instance. We have also covered all bases to ensure that any reprisal is minimal and as difficult as possible to take against a person who has disclosed a wrongdoing.

We are not infallible however. My hon. colleague from the Conservative Party mentioned it earlier, and we want to reiterate, even though it is already in there, that this bill must be reviewed five years after coming into force. If we realize that there have been a million disclosures because the definitions are too broad or because everyone is dishonest—which I doubt very much—then we can look at what could be improved and tighten the rules. If reprisals were taken against every person who disclosed a wrongdoing, we might conclude that we misunderstood everything we heard during committee hearings.

After several months of discussions, of hearing witnesses and of negotiations, members of the Standing Committee on Governmental Operations and Estimates agreed that the three main points are the independent officer, the legislative framework to file a complaint and measures against reprisal. The members believe that these points were serious enough that we could give what I maintain is unanimous support in this House to Bill C-11, as introduced to us at this time. Of course, this support will be conditional to us being able to review this bill in five years to correct the errors that, unfortunately, we did not see while studying it.

We thus created the position of integrity commissioner. In the very unlikelihood that a wrongdoing would be committed in the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, should the Office of the Integrity Commissioner do wrongful things with public funds, a person could file a complaint before the Office of the Auditor General. Thus we believe we have established a framework for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the government.

We also changed some terms and references to give a more positive character to the bill. Indeed we now talk of “disclosure” instead of “whistleblowing” and “person who discloses” ”instead of “whistleblower”. Thanks to the concerted work of Conservative and Bloc Québécois members as well as certain witnesses heard, the RCMP is included in Bill C-11 whereas it was excluded previously. After five years, we will verify whether this is a good thing. However, not all RCMP services are included.

For the Bloc Québécois, this was a very enlightening committee because we worked not only for strictly political reasons, but also to provide a more adequate workplace for public service officers and public servants.

I would not want the bill to cast a shadow over the work of public servants as a whole and I would not want people to think that public servants are all suspicious individuals. However, thanks to this bill, we will be able to keep an eye on the work of each and every manager involved in public finances. While this is definitely not the bill's underlying objective or philosophy, unfortunately, there are still people in positions of authority who mismanage public funds. We saw it with the scandals that were mentioned earlier and that my Conservative friends are happy to remind us about. Some managers misuse public funds. The employees working under these public servants had every reason to fear reprisals for disclosing these wrongdoings.

The committee heard some sad stories. For example, three public servants at the department of Health were fired. These three scientists, who have doctorate degrees, told us that they were fired or shelved because they blew the whistle on bovine somatotropin, while their managers were adamant that they should not talk about this issue. These people are currently appealing to the civil courts, in an attempt to reintegrate their positions. The public servant who denounced the sponsorship scandal told us that he was really lucky to know someone who reintegrated him into another department, otherwise he would have been out of work. We saw how difficult it is to speak out and what the impact could be on the personal lives of these individuals, and on those of their families and friends when, after six months or a year, they would make the decision to disclose a wrongdoing. They had to put up with the reproving look of their supervisor, who would ostracize them because of their actions.

I remember another former public servant who was posted in Hong Kong. He mentioned how computer systems were open windows for those who were prepared to falsify passports for people from Asia who wanted to come to Canada. He too was fired for purportedly falsely alerting authorities when in fact he was justified in making these disclosures.

So we saw the flip side of the coin: how yesterday and today, before Bill C-11 comes into effect, those who witnessed such wrongdoing were forced to painfully disclose it. Even if only 1% or 2% of all public servants are guilty of mismanagement, the employees working under such managers must be given an official and clear framework. In my opinion, there will not be a mountain of complaints. First, the legislation will be tested when it comes into effect. Nevertheless, there will not be many complaints from the public service. Perhaps some of these complaints will be not be relevant because they can be resolved internally. The other complaints will be heard and, initially, no doubt, there will be some leading cases.

Since the government has heard that an independent commissioner is needed and since it amended the bill to reflect what stakeholders asked for in committee, I am hopeful. First, I believe that it was essential to look good after what happened. Second, I am quite hopeful that any public servants who are listening or who will find out about this bill will use it wisely.

In closing, I want to ask the government, which spends a great deal on communication and advertising, to invest a little less—but still invest—in order to inform the public service about Bill C-11 when it does come into effect. I am no expert in BBM ratings and polls, but I do not think that the entire public service is currently listening, at 1:30 p.m., to the debates in the House of Commons. First, I think that they are working. Second, I do not think that they will read Hansard tomorrow morning to see if we discussed a bill that might have a direct impact on them.

I am hopeful that the government will at least promote this legislation so that the public servants know what tools are at their disposal in order to disclose wrongdoing.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased the House finally has started debate on Bill C-11 to enact whistleblower legislation. This is the second legislation that has come to the House to deal with whistleblowers.

A couple of years ago Bill C-25 was introduced in the House, but it was rejected by the committee because of a few things, one key thing being the independent officer of Parliament to which whistleblowers would report was not in place. In spite of that, when Bill C-11 came to committee, that was still the case. No independent office was set up so whistleblowers could comfortably and confidently report without having the filter of a minister.

This demonstrates better than anything else that we cannot trust the government to make itself accountable for waste and corruption. Should we expect the Liberals to bring forward legislation that could clean up a systematic corruption in their government? I think not. We saw it with David Dingwall last week and we saw it with the sponsorship scandal. The government is not to be trusted with Canadians' tax dollars. It seems to be more concerned about taking care of its friends and quite frankly the Liberal Party.

What the Liberals have done with this whistleblower legislation is no different. Their bill was totally rejected by the government operations and estimates committee and was substantially and fundamentally rewritten. It had to be rewritten before the all party committee of the House of Commons would accept it. When civil servants see corrupt activity, they should be able to blow the whistle without retribution.

Bill C-11 is a triumph of committee work. The committee, consisting of members from all parties, should be proud of the work it has done with the legislation. They have taken a weak bill, which was totally unacceptable, and made it into a bill which is not perfect, but at least it is a starting point. It would allow whistleblowers to come forward with confidence and report wrongdoing. Had the legislation been in place before the sponsorship scandal, it probably would have prevented that from happening.

It is key legislation, probably the most important the government has brought forth in the last two years.

By producing the legislation, which will better protect whistleblowers, the government operations committee has demonstrated how effective committees of Parliament can be. Public servants and members of the RCMP, which was an amendment made by the committee, would have been protected by the new legislation had it been in place at the time of their disclosure. I am speaking about public servants and members of the RCMP who, because there was no legislation like this, had their careers destroyed and their lives torn to shreds. We heard from some of them at committee, and I believe most members of Parliament have heard from others. Again, it is not perfect but it will go a long way to improving the situation.

I am astounded that the government fought so long and so hard to keep the control over the office of the whistleblowers in the hands of a minister so it could filter anything that went to it. I want to talk about what happened in that regard.

Bill C-25 was the first legislation that came forth about two years ago. The committee heard from several witnesses. I was a member of that committee. In fact, the current minister in charge of the Treasury Board was chair of the government operations and estimates committee at that time. Every witness who came before the committee said that the legislation would be worthless if the government did not have an independent officer to whom they could report. What did the government do? It brought back Bill C-11 with an office of the whistleblowers which would answer to a minister, not directly to Parliament.

The committee heard from about 20 witnesses. Again, they all said the same thing, that among other changes it was absolutely essential to have an independent office for whistleblowers to which they could report.

When did the government finally give in on this? It was about June 16. On about June 14 the critic for the Treasury Board, the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, asked a question of the minister in the House. It was a very respectful question, pointing out that the committee was bogged down, that the legislation would be thrown out by the committee if an independent office was not put in place. At that time the minister made no guarantee that he and his cabinet would agree to put in place an independent office.

On June 16 that same member put an ultimatum before the government. The ultimatum was delivered in question period in the form of a question to the President of the Treasury Board. I wish to read it so people can see what happened here. The member said that he had asked the President of the Treasury Board whether he was prepared to create an independent office to protect whistleblowers and investigate their disclosures. He went on to say that the Conservative Party, with the backing of every single stakeholder and expert, had been making this demand consistently both in the House and in committee ever since the Liberals tabled their worst and useless whistleblower bill. Then he said:

The dithering has to end now. I have an ultimatum for the minister: either he amends his bill to create an independent commissioner who reports directly to Parliament, or the Conservative Party will make sure this bill dies in committee. Independence or death, which will it be?

A bit of theatrics, but that is the question delivered by the member. It was an extremely important question. Again, no satisfactory answer.

The member delivered the ultimatum again and said, “Will the minister take it or leave it?” He still would make no commitment. However, less than 24 hours later the government against all of its efforts was forced to do the right, to back up and agree with the committee to put in place an independent office so whistleblowers could report to an officer of Parliament, set up similar to the Auditor General. If it did not, the bill would be defeated.

It is very unfortunate when we have to resort to threats, but when it comes to protecting our public servants and protecting the integrity of the public service, at that time we will use whatever measures we have to use to make things happen. That ultimatum worked. As a result of that, the independent office was put in place. That was a key part to making the legislation work.

There were several other areas which were absolutely needed as well. Allegations without evidence would now be allowed to be brought forth by whistleblowers. That was a key change to the legislation. Otherwise how would the public service get absolute evidence? It is just about impossible. Allowing allegations without having actual evidence proves this was a key change, again made by the committee under pressure.

Another key change was that a whistleblower would not necessarily have to report to his or her immediate supervisor. Imagine how ineffective the legislation would be had a whistleblower been forced to report directly to an immediate supervisor. The Liberals backed off on that one. Now whistleblowers can go directly to the commissioner should they choose. This is an important change.

Reducing the information secrecy period was a great concern to many on the committee. In the legislation there was a 20 year period where information regarding what the whistleblower brought forth and the discussions that went on around it was protected. I believe that was a cover-up protection. It would allow a government to protect the information from the general public and opposition parties for 20 years. That is completely unacceptable. The committee had it changed to five years. It is not a total victory by any means, but it is progress.

These changes and many others were made by the government operations and estimates committee. The committee really demonstrated that a committee of Parliament could work effectively and it did. I am proud of all the members of the committee.

It also went to show that the government will resist any change to make it more accountable. The government will resist to a point that it takes an unbelievable push to make the necessary changes. We did that. The committee should be proud.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Wajid Khan Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today in support of Bill C-25.

Support for Bill C-25 has been expressed in terms of different ministerial mandates. In lending support for the bill, I will primarily focus on how it promotes the foreign policy interests of the Government of Canada. I will conclude with some thoughts on why this bill is good for Canadians, good for Canada and good for our international relations.

Before I do that, let me explain how it came to pass that the Minister of Foreign Affairs became the administrator of this bill. This will link the benefits of Canada's foreign policy with the reasoning behind certain provisions of the bill.

Outer space is a domain that borders every nation. Look up from anywhere on earth and outer space is only 200 kilometres or so above our heads. That is approximately the distance between Ottawa and Montreal. Activities that occur in outer space, for good or ill, affect all nations.

It was not long after Sputnik was launched in 1957 that the international community turned its attention to outer space. United Nations resolutions soon began to express the determination that outer space would be used only for peaceful purposes. Certainly military uses of space are consistent with these principles, but not all of them.

Eventually this diplomatic activity culminated in the adoption of the 1967 outer space treaty. The outer space treaty enshrined the international responsibility of states for the activities of their nationals in outer space. States also agreed to ban weapons of mass destruction from this sphere. Canada was an original signatory to that treaty, the Magna Carta for outer space, based on the conviction that winning battles through law was superior to winning by force.

This is the approach taken in the remote sensing space systems act before us today. Reflecting its international obligations, Canada would license remote sensing space systems controlled from within Canada. We would also license the activities of Canadians and corporations in the field, no matter where they chose to establish operations.

This last requirement to cover the activity of Canadians abroad is not unusual in outer space matters, since remote sensing satellites can be operated from any place in the world. The Outer Space Act 1986 of the United Kingdom and the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992 of the United States impose licensing requirements on U.K. and U.S. citizens respectively, even when they may conduct operations from sites in other legal jurisdictions.

These requirements may, however, result in a multiplicity of states asserting jurisdiction over the same activities by the same person. To resolve such competing claims of jurisdiction requires the coordination of the foreign ministries of space-faring nations and may ultimately result in the need for formal arrangements among them. This is the responsibility of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The proposed remote sensing space systems act that is before us today asserts a broad jurisdiction. It also, however, grants the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to resolve competing claims of jurisdiction by a ministerial order of exemption.

Under the act, the Minister of Foreign Affairs could exempt persons, systems or data if he or she was satisfied with such a step. The exemption must not be injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces or to Canada's conduct of international relations. It must not be inconsistent with Canada's international obligations. As well, adequate provision must be made for the protection of the environment, public health, and the safety of persons and property as well as the interests of provinces.

To ensure that Canada maintains jurisdiction over any remote sensing satellite that it has licensed, the proposed act requires that the licensee maintain direct control of the satellite from within Canada. This ensures that the government has the ability to guarantee compliance with the provisions of the licence by keeping satellite command operations within its territorial jurisdiction.

At the same time, a licence would be required for all remote sensing satellites controlled from Canada, regardless of domestic or foreign ownership, and a licensee or former licensee may not transfer control of the licensed satellite without the approval of the minister. This provision ensures that sensitive technology embodied in a remote sensing satellite, once in orbit, cannot be transferred to a foreign person at odds with Canada's security, defence and foreign policy interests. In that regard, the act before this House would be comparable to Canada's Export and Import Permits Act.

By this approach, the bill reflects a favourable attitude toward foreign investment in Canada's high technology industry as long as our security interests are protected. That in turn means jobs for Canadians and opportunities for our own businesses.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs is well positioned to help Canadians compete, prosper and make a success of the most international of all activities: outer space. The minister's mandate combines an international security responsibility on the one hand and the responsibility to promote the national prosperity of Canadians on the other.

During the debate on Bill C-25, we heard about the defence interests in regulating remote sensing space systems in Canada. We were also informed about the socio-economic benefits of regulation of the Canadian remote sensing space industry.

Let me assure my colleagues that under the proposed act it would be an important part of the Minister of Foreign Affairs' job to weigh the risks and the benefits of granting a licence, and under what conditions, with the goal of striking a right balance: to encourage Canada's technological development and economic prosperity while at the same time safeguarding our security through smart regulations.

Certain states have implemented similar legislation to regulate remote sensing systems. We propose to join the vanguard of that cause. Other nations will also be following us. With foresight, we lead others to a world view that supports the peaceful use of outer space and all its aspects, a world view that establishes the rule of law and justice on the new high frontier, a world view that permits all nations to enjoy equitably the benefits of the peaceful use of outer space, benefits for international peace and security and benefits for economic development and prosperity.

The bill is also important in terms of our relationship with the United States. Canada's decision to control its own remote sensing satellites, announced in June of 1999, enabled Canada and the U.S. to come to a common understanding concerning the operation of commercial remote sensing satellites, an understanding codified in a treaty signed in June 2000. This treaty aims to ensure that commercial remote sensing satellite systems will be controlled in each country so as to protect shared national security and foreign policy interests, while simultaneously promoting the commercial benefits to be derived from these systems.

Today we can conclude a process to honour the commitments made under that very treaty. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill at the earliest opportunity so that Canada's deeds are shown to be as good as its words.

Before closing, I want to touch on one or two additional aspects of the bill that relate directly to the Minister of Foreign Affairs' mandate. Let me begin with the minister's powers to interrupt normal commercial service.

No one wants to cause their friends and allies harm by act or omission, hence the provision in the act granting the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to interrupt normal service, to invoke “shutter control” on a Canadian satellite to assist another state. Shutter control is a power designed for use primarily to protect our own national interests under the most serious of circumstances, but it is also an important element in protecting both valuable alliances and shared interests.

The case is similar with respect to granting the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to order priority access service in the interests of conducting Canada's international relations. In this regard, we can, for example, foresee the need to assist another state or the United Nations urgently in dealing with a humanitarian emergency. By way of example, it is worth remembering the benefits of Canadian RADARSAT-1 technology in supporting Canada's foreign policy interests during the Rwandan crisis and in responding to the recent tsunami tragedy in South Asia.

Let me conclude by reiterating the core rationale for the bill. The House should adopt the remote sensing space systems act because it is better to provide a smart regulatory framework for these remote sensing satellite systems than to risk injury to Canada's national security, national defence or foreign policy.

We should pass this bill to fulfill Canada's international obligations to regulate the outer space activities of its nationals.

We should pass this bill to ensure that Canadian companies can lead in the provision of remote sensing space technology and services through the establishment of a clear regulatory framework that can attract investment, technology and markets.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 1:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has made two important points.

One is that any party which intends to oppose Bill C-25 in the end should consider seriously some of the implications of what it can do to help our environment and the military. That is certainly critical. On the other hand, if any political party in the House or any individual in the House sees flaws in the legislation, they should not allow the legislation to be rushed through the House as it is simply because it is something that is good for the country. Each one of us has a responsibility to make any change we feel is necessary to make it a better piece of legislation.

Right now the New Democratic Party is opposing the bill. The NDP members have some serious questions. They also have some questions that I am not sure are that serious. On the other hand, the government has allowed the NDP to prop up the Liberal government for almost a year. Anything negative the member would say about the New Democratic Party, he should be aware that is the party that has propped up the government day after day, week after week. I say the shame is on the government, on the member and his party, if they continue to allow that to happen.

In the military area there is no end to the possibilities. It will be useful. However, I do not want to give the impression that this legislation is primarily to deal with military activities. It is to deal with security, but certainly security also includes natural disasters and those types of thing.

It is interesting that the member asked about the defence possibilities. His government has failed our military. The government has failed this country when it comes to providing security through the military for the 12 years the Liberals have been in office. That is clear. For the member to stand up and say to support this bill because of what it will do for the military is somewhat contradictory.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 1:05 p.m.
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Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's statement. He is the former defence critic for the opposition and an individual who, as he said, is very aware of the issues surrounding Bill C-25.

It is important to reiterate some of the important points that were touched on by the previous speaker. Not only is this bill important from a security aspect, which I will get to in a moment, but it is also extremely important from an environmental aspect.

Global warming is taking place. We have heard of the contraction of the ice cap in the north and what effect that is going to have. We know about the different changes that are occurring with respect to our waterways, the changing weather patterns that are occurring and the effect on the ground. Vegetation is changing. Vegetation mapping is important from a scientific perspective and an environmental perspective, but it is also exceedingly important to the member's province of Alberta and my province of British Columbia. Understanding the changing environment on the ground with respect to the forest cover is exceptionally important from environmental and economic perspectives.

I also want to touch on an important issue that I know is close to the member's heart, as it is for me and the government. That is the issue of defence. To those who would criticize Bill C-25, I say watch out. This bill is extremely important for our troops, for their protection and their ability to do their work within Canada and abroad. Bill C-25 and the RADARSATs are extremely important for us to enable them to do their work and also to protect them.

I would ask those who would oppose this bill to think about whether it is rational at all to deprive our armed forces, our men and women on the ground who are doing a yeoman's job abroad, of this information and capability. We must have it for their protection and their service to our nation. It is a rhetorical question which deserves but one answer, and that is yes. This bill is important for their security and the work that they do for our country and Canadians here and abroad.

Given the hon. member's experience as the previous defence critic for his party, could he expand upon where this RADARSAT technology may wish to go in the future for our armed forces?

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-25 today regarding remote sensing of space systems.

Three or four years ago, when I was our party's defence critic, I was fortunate enough to visit the RADARSAT facility here in Ottawa. When I went into that facility I knew very little about what this was all about but by the time I left I was terribly impressed. The whole operation of RADARSAT-1 is something for which Canadians can be proud.

It was apparently initiated back in about 1980 I believe when Canada had been using a similar type of radar based American satellite and that satellite failed after only a few days in space. Therefore Canada was looking at what to do in terms of replacing the needs of that time. The government decided to develop its own program and develop its own radar based satellite and RADARSAT-1 was the result of that.

When I visited that facility I was terribly impressed by some of the capability. Most of the capability has to do with areas like the environment and issues like a natural disaster of some kind. I was really impressed when it was explained to me how RADARSAT-1 was actually used to monitor oil spills on the ocean anywhere on earth. If there was an oil spill this satellite could actually monitor the spreading of the oil or other substances on the water.

I do not think anyone could argue the importance of having that RADARSAT-1 capability.

What the legislation would do is determine an appropriate role for government in monitoring satellites like that. RADARSAT-2 is about to be launched over the next few years. I think the need for legislation was partially spawned by that but I also think it was partly because the government recognized that there are times when it has to monitor and regulate the information gathered by equipment like RADARSAT-1, and 2 in the future, in order to be allowed to use information collected for the benefit of national security.

That is really the purpose of the bill. It would allow the Minister of Foreign Affairs to license commercial development of remote sensing satellite systems and regulate the distribution of information produced by these systems.

The bill does have national security implications but it also has important implications in dealing with the environment, natural resources and possibly military use as well.

This is one of those pieces of legislation that comes before the House that does not seem like particularly important legislation and there is a temptation to kind of rush it through the House. The bill has been examined in committee already and many concerns were raised by all parties regarding what was in the bill and some changes were made.

Our party will support the bill but we have some concerns about it and we will be looking for some clarification, particularly in terms of definitions of just what types of satellite systems the government may control. In this case that control is appropriate, as I have stated before, but I think it has to be clearly defined under what situations and in what way a government can take over the use of that system and restrict the agencies from using that information in a way that may harm our country and may harm national security.

This legislation might not sound that important, but I believe it is important and does deserve proper scrutiny. We will continue to do that throughout the process in the House.

Bill C-25 allows Canadian companies to own and operate remote sensing satellite systems under licence from the government. It provides government with priority access if government deems it must interrupt the normal use of the system. Just for clarification, it is not the case that the government will actually be running the system. It is not the case that the regulation will involve the everyday use of the system, so much as allowing, when needed, for government to step in and use the information as required and also for it to limit the use of the information by the private sector or by the agency.

Again it is a situation where it is hard to define clearly which situations would require government to intervene, but it is important that we do the best job we can. The committee has attempted to do that. There is some work to be done and we will certainly continue to try to ensure that the bill is in a form that we can support before we support it at third reading, but we will support it at this time.

When we look at its potential use and how RADARSAT-1 has been used, it is not just about RADARSAT-1 or RADARSAT-2; it could certainly be future satellites that we may not know anything about. If we look at the potential use of these types of systems, we do not want to do anything to discourage the private sector or an agency to become involved and to develop. It is to everyone's benefit in this country that it is developed and that the use is expanded in the future.

Other than the oil spill and the environmental type of situation which I mentioned, we could all imagine the great importance of having a system like this available in the case of a natural disaster, such as a flood or an earthquake. Often in an earthquake, communications systems are closed down. Roads and railways and other access routes are shut down. To have this monitoring ability is extremely important. The use of this type of system is clearly of importance, so we do not want government to get involved in a way that will discourage the private sector from continuing to develop future satellite systems.

As the bill passes through the House, we have to ensure that it will not discourage, but that it will encourage the private sector and the government agencies involved to do their work and develop even better systems in the future.

I will leave my comments at that. I look forward to hearing the debate today. Certainly I look forward to the final form of the legislation when it has passed through the House. It may not be perceived as a particularly important bill, but I believe it is important that Parliament does its job on the bill.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Vegreville—Wainwright.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-25. The bill is intended to implement the commitment of Canada made under the Canada-U.S. agreement concerning the operation of commercial remote sensing satellite systems in June of 2000. The purpose of that agreement was to ensure that private remote sensing satellite systems would be controlled in each territory, that is, Canada and the United States, in such a manner as to protect shared national security interests without interfering in the commercial benefits to be derived from these systems.

From my point of view, the most important portion of remote sensing is the ability to use the system to secure our borders and remain autonomous in our defence decision making. Security in the form of border control is a useful example of the system's advancement. Whether it is curious activity taking place at a particular port or unusual movement or normally unused coastlines, this satellite technology will make us aware.

As we know, the bill has been through the committee stage under intense scrutiny and the private-public partnership that will be used to run the system was addressed. We feel assured that the private sector investment in technology will be beneficial to keeping Canadian satellite technology development progressing steadily, with no need to invest in technology elsewhere.

The images taken by the satellites serve a plethora of purposes. There cannot be one particular environmental field in Canada that would be disappointed with RADARSAT-2's ability now to give them the most advanced information possible to track environmental information. Forest fires, flooding, any type of environmental degradation can be located with this new technology. It is able to produce the most elaborate maps of the earth's surface which will serve other numerous purposes, like irrigation planning and identifying arable land, et cetera.

The accuracy of RADARSAT-2 is truly remarkable in identifying objects on or near the earth's surface. From the movement of people to blemishes on agricultural goods, this sensing system is the epitome of detail.

All principal emphasis in the legislation seems to agree with relevant Conservative Party policies, notably those which uphold the commitment to encourage the private sectors and those which underline the primary responsibility of government to provide for national security. It is intended to provide the Government of Canada with authority to regulate remote sensing space systems and to protect national interests in matters of defence and security. It is seen as an essential prerequisite to further acts of co-operation between government and private firms which intend to operate in these fields.

The present legislation appears to provide an opportunity to secure the proper role for a sovereign Canada in regulating the most advanced systems gathering information from space. The Conservative Party's interest in this matter of securing a proper place for the private sector in scientific and industrial activity leads it to support the legislation, as does its commitment to the defence of the nation, the hemisphere from military threats from abroad and from terrorist activities conceived at home and abroad. Thus, it will support the legislation.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I found the comments of the parliamentary secretary to be incredibly patronizing. This is not some sort of philosophical debate. The bill exists. This is something concrete. This is about sharp differences between what we saw as a need for amendments to the legislation and that did happen.

The question of needing the bill is not an issue. It is the reality that the bill does not give the kind of protection raised in committee and was warranted. I find it very trivializing for him to pass it off as somehow being a philosophical debate.

If the government chooses not to look at those amendments and adopt them, then so be it. If the government wants our support on Bill C-25, then let it come forward and discuss those amendments. We would be happy to do that. If they were approved, then we would be happy to support the bill.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to belabour the point for the hon. member as I know she has put a lot of time into this. However, it is always beneficial to have a member of Parliament sitting on the committee to know exactly what has happened. I understand the philosophy and the importance of what is being provided here.

There appears to be several amendments that her party proposed at committee which were accepted and were not in essence redundant. I am looking at dozens that were supplied by her party. Some are extremely important to address the concerns of the NDP and to express the concerns that might have some relationship to what we were trying to accomplish here. As much as the government and the opposition have been flexible in this regard, there comes a point where philosophy obscures one's vision of the facts.

I do not blame the hon. member because she never sat on the committee. Perhaps she was there for only a moment or two. She is relying on the good work done by the hon. member for Halifax for whom I have great respect and who has done a lot of work on this issue.

As much as I understand the correspondence between herself and the member who sat on the committee, something has become lost. Not withstanding the objections, in my view there was an emergence on the committee of general consensus that this was not the great satellite detection system that would be used for military purposes in terms of the ballistic missile defence.

Surely the hon. member and her party are not saying now that they are opposing the bill because it could have positive implications for our troops around the world and for people who find themselves in positions of disaster. Surely the NDP is not saying that Bill C-25 should not pass and allow the kind of technology that helps Canadians abroad.

I want to hear it from the NDP. Are those members opposing the legislation because they have some philosophical differences or are they opposing it because they have some kind of reticence to protecting Canadians abroad?

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak on Bill C-25, the act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems.

Now that we are at third reading of the bill and in the final stages, I want to say at the outset that when we were debating the bill in principle at second reading, the NDP and our critic in this area, the member for Halifax, were actually of two minds about the bill. We were very aware of the critical need for legislation outlining protection for Canadian interests and the privacy of Canadians, and for proper controls and regulations when it comes to satellites, the information used and how it is governed.

While we were very aware of the underlying need for this legislation, when we looked at the bill we became very concerned about the vagueness of the language in the bill. It really began to raise some alarm bells for us in the NDP in terms of exactly how the bill would be implemented and whether or not the public interest would be upheld.

I know that the member for Halifax, our critic, worked very diligently at the committee level. When the bill was referred to committee, she worked very diligently with NGOs and with community representatives who were very concerned about the bill and who in fact brought forward something like 18 solid amendments which would have provided the kind of clarification, accountability and transparency for this bill that would have allowed us in the NDP, had the amendments been approved, to then support the bill.

Unfortunately, that did not happen. Those amendments were not approved. Here we are at third reading, and although we agree with the underlying intent and principle of the bill, we have serious reservations that the bill does not go far enough. It does not do the job in protecting the interests of Canadians and ensuring that there is adequate public oversight of what happens with RADARSAT-2. I will just spend a few minutes detailing what some of those concerns are.

First of all, let us be very clear that it is Canadian taxpayers who have funded a major portion of the development of this satellite. About 75% of the development funds have come from the public purse. That is about $450 million. On a financial basis alone, after what has been invested in this program, we should have a huge concern about what is going on.

The reality is that this satellite, RADARSAT-2, will be 100% commercially owned. It seriously raises the question as to why, as my colleague from the Bloc raised earlier, the Canadian Space Agency, for example, does not have some control and oversight of the development of this satellite and all that it will entail.

Why is it that the Canadian government appears to be moving away from its controlling interest and oversight of this? We will end up with a 100% commercially owned entity where the only connection and accountability will be as a result of this bill, which, as I have said, is very inadequate.

We agree that Canadians must be assured that the information collected by RADARSAT-2, the satellite, will not be used against our national interest and will not violate in any way the privacy of Canadians. In fact, one of the amendments that we sought in committee was to entrench the privacy rights of Canadians, to ensure those rights in view of the imagery collected by this incredibly powerful, highly advanced, state of the art technology. That is what we are told about it by its manufacturer, MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates.

We wanted an ironclad agreement that the privacy of Canadians from images and information resulting from this technology would be protected. We know that the images created can come up to within one and a half metres of an individual, an activity or a location. I think people have a really deep concern about that.

We live in an era where data collection is massive. We live in an era where increasing privatization, which has been encouraged and supported by the federal government, infringes upon the rights of Canadians and their protection of privacy. We have to recognize that there is a very deep concern from Canadians about this issue.

One only has to remember, for example, the outcry from Canadians when they learned that Statistics Canada was thinking of handing over our census collection to Lockheed Martin, the largest ammunitions and militarized corporation in the world. When people found out that our census and Canadian data about Canadians, about us individually, was about to be handed over to Lockheed Martin, there was a huge outcry in this country. We were the ones who raised it in Parliament and the federal government had to back away from that because it realized that it had gone down a road where there was a massive backlash.

One only has to remember what is going on in British Columbia, where the Liberal provincial government is working to allow medical records to also be handled by a U.S. corporation. There are huge concerns about the loss of privacy and the lack of adequate oversight and control around the handling of that data.

I mention these two examples because they are very pertinent to this debate today. Here we have RADARSAT-2, a state of the art technology, featuring the most advanced commercially available radar imagery in the world, to be developed by next year, massive Canadian funds that have been invested in it, yet what hangs on a shred is this bill and the protection of not only individual privacy and rights of Canadians but also national interests.

One of our major concerns about this bill is that it does not include the kind of protection that we would like to see, that we sought in committee, in order to have the protection of privacy of Canadians.

Another serious concern that we have about this bill is that the language that is contained within it now is very vague and unaccountable in terms like international obligations and international relations. Again at committee, we tried to further define this and to get much better assurances from the government to ensure that where there is a conflict, where a conflict may arise in terms of information that is collected by RADARSAT-2, it will in no way violate or impact on Canadian interests or national security.

We have heard from the parliamentary secretary today that of course, there is no question, he is entirely convinced, as his government is, that this bill will adequately protect those interests. However, I must say that from the witnesses who were heard at committee there was a great deal of skepticism. There was a great deal of concern that there were not adequate protections to ensure that information affecting our international obligations or international relations would be protected.

For example, Canada is a part of NATO. NATO makes decisions about engaging in military actions. It may be a military action that involves NATO going to war. It may be a decision that Canada does not agree with, but it leaves us with a scenario where information that has been collected could be used by other agencies and interests that would place in conflict Canada's policies and international relations.

This is an area of great concern to us as well as the language that is within the bill right now. Basically, it is left to the sole discretion of ministers to decide whether or not there is a conflict with international obligations and national interests. We believe that this is something that should firmly rest with Canada. These are big questions and they were canvassed by the committee. They were on the table in committee where there was a lot of discussion.

We heard from Bloc members who had similar concerns. Yet the government chose not to further elaborate and provide protections in the bill to ensure that privacy and Canada's interests are protected.

We are concerned that the bill will now be approved. In fact, the parliamentary secretary earlier in the debate today made reference to a special in camera meeting that was held supposedly to assure members of the committee that the protections that they sought would be there. I was not there. I am not on the committee, but I know from our critic, the member for Halifax, that the meeting did take place.

However, in actual fact what transpired from that was an even greater concern that there may be other agreements between the satellite company and the federal government that were not even acknowledged. That is a very real concern.

This information was not fully disclosed at the in camera committee. We are very concerned that there may be other confidential agreements that exist. We do not know the terms of those agreements. We do not know how it impacts on information that may be divulged to other parties.

Yes, frankly speaking, there is a concern that information that is collected by this technology and this commercially owned operation can be used by other governments, for example, the U.S. for military purposes. It may be contrary to a decision that Canada has taken, for example, our non-participation in the war in Iraq. We know that it happened with RADARSAT-1.

I know the parliamentary secretary is going to get up and tell me, and try to convince me and other Canadians that the government has done the job, that it has protected everyone. However, upon our examination of the bill and hearing from expert witnesses and hearing from people who are tracking the bill and the system, there is no such assurance.

Therefore, we are standing before the House today and saying that we cannot support the bill. Otherwise we would be supporting it because we understand why the bill is needed. However, we cannot support it in its present form. It does not provide the kind of assurances and guarantees that we believe are incredibly important for this kind of highly sensitive, highly volatile information that is being collected.

I would speak further to one other amendment, of which there were a number put forward by the NDP, which was rejected. It recommended that a detailed report be filed with Parliament that would clearly outline for example how many times violations had taken place, how fines were being imposed, and whether the government had collected on those fines. We tried to bring in amendments that delivered on the accountability and transparency side, but again they were not accepted, so we are left in a position where we cannot support the bill.

At the beginning of the debate we heard from the parliamentary secretary that there was a sense of urgency to get the bill through. Maybe there is and maybe there is not. I do not know, but it is a very significant bill because it deals with an area of public policy that really does not get enough public scrutiny.

It is the kind of bill that can just easily slip through and before we know it the landscape has changed and all the rules have changed. Here we have a commercially owned operation where vast amounts of powerful information and images are being collected that can be used in a way that is contrary to Canadian interests.

We have very serious reservations about that. We believe that the bill should not be rushed through. It should be debated. We should have a review of some of the amendments that have been put forward. There are two parties that have very strong reservations about the bill, but as it stands now it looks like it will pass. We do not think that is good enough and so we will be using our votes to clearly voice our opposition to third reading.

I encourage other members to take another look at it and consider their position. We think the bill as it is now is not adequate. It is not good enough. It does not provide the kind of protection that is being sought by members of the community, by our party and by other parties to protect the interests of Canadians.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems.

I want it known from the outset that we will vote against this bill. In fact, a number of problems that we had raised were not addressed in committee. And yet, the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île and I did propose a number of amendments. The NDP also tried to clarify the bill, but the Conservatives and the Liberals were indifferent and treated us to their usual uncompromising attitude that we have grown accustomed to over the past 10 years.

Still, consideration of legislation on remote sensing is very thrilling. It gives every member of the committee a chance to learn a great deal about it. We also saw that since this is a relatively new field, there were a great deal of questions that government officials had not asked themselves. Fortunately, the committee raised these questions. Too bad it did not get any response.

It probably would have been better to postpone the debate on Bill C-25 and to continue the work of the committee in order to ensure that this legislation, made necessary by the fact that the Canadian Space Agency was relieved from one of the responsibilities it had in managing RADARSAT-1, truly responded to the objectives set out in the summary. I will read the summary, since those watching us need to know what we are talking about.

This enactment regulates remote sensing space systems to ensure that their operation is neither injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces or to Canada’s conduct of international relations nor inconsistent with Canada’s international obligations.

In order to accomplish this, the enactment establishes a licensing regime for remote sensing space systems and provides for restrictions on the distribution of data gathered by means of them. In addition, the enactment gives special powers to the Government of Canada concerning priority access to remote sensing services and the interruption of such services.

That is the aim of this bill. As I mentioned, we support this aim. However, if the Canadian Space Agency had retained responsibility for managing and operating RADARSAT-2, this bill would not be necessary. Instead, the Liberal government decided, in this area, to establish a public-private partnership—Quebec knows that such partnerships are rarely successful either in reality or in the public eye—between the Canadian Space Agency and MacDonald Dettwiler, a Canadian company.

If RADARSAT-1 had been left as it is, that is, having this remote sensing space system under public management, this bill would have been moot. However, we are being presented with a fait accompli, this public-private partnership. So we must establish a framework for this private enterprise, which will be responsible for managing a remote sensing space satellite.

Even if we make a law that every operator of this kind of technology must obtain a licence, the fact is that Bill C-25 seeks to provide a framework solely for the activities of one private company.

I want to mention that I find it troubling, to say the least, that one of the sponsors of this bill, the Minister of Industry, served on the board of this private company in 2000. A number of responsibilities set out in the bill will need to be clarified.

This bill is a first in Canada. As I said, it was made necessary due to a decision taken by the government, under former minister John Manley, to transfer RADARSAT-2 to a private company.

As I recall, and as the leader of the NDP said earlier, RADARSAT-2 was designed and built by the Canadian Space Agency, which is located in Saint Hubert, at a cost of $430 million. In fact, I think that the costs have increased somewhat since then. However, the Canadian company, MacDonald Dettwiler invested only $92 million. It has also committed to paying the satellite's operating costs. But any private company operating this satellite will want to sell the images it takes and make a profit. It will do so at the expense of taxpayers who paid for the system's construction.

In my opinion, this is the first problem in the whole debate, which is not as much focussed on Bill C-25 as on the government's past decision to shed responsibility for administration of RADARSAT-2.

One can, of course, wonder how appropriate it is, from the point of view of governance, to use the taxpayers' money to permit a private company to sell its remote sensing images. No one is questioning the appropriateness of having such satellites. Hon. members will recall that RADARSAT-1 scans the Earth's surface with advanced synthetic aperture radar. Unlike optical systems, this system makes imaging possible day and night, whether the atmosphere is clear, cloudy or foggy. As a result, these satellites are extremely useful for monitoring natural disasters.

As I said in my question to the parliamentary secretary, this also allows for natural resource management. It is, for example, very difficult to assess changes in a forest with the naked eye. With satellite images, however, it is possible to take inventory of the forests, as well as waterways and a number of other things. It is, of course, very useful for both meteorology and cartography.

The novelty with RADARSAT-2 is the markedly higher resolution than was available with RADARSAT-1, varying between two and three metres. This is, of course, where the entire problem lies with the use private interests will make of these ultra high resolution images. I recall that MacDonald Dettwiler, the private company that will be administering this, will sell these images to private interests as well as to foreign interests.

The Americans are worried about the possibility that images obtained by RADARSAT-2 and sold by this private company could have military repercussions. A treaty, to which we could not get access, was signed with the United States in 2000. We therefore share the concerns of the Polaris Institute as to its contents. Do the Americans have some right to veto the sale and use of the images that will be taken?

We know that U.S. law forbids selling images to certain countries. We can understand that. However, will we let the U.S. dictate to Canada how the images should be sold? We would have liked to have seen that treaty. We were told that it does not contain anything that can be cause for concern but I am not ready to blindly accept the government's word. We have concerns. The bill should reflect the complete independence of Canada in matters of foreign affairs but that is not the case.

In addition, there are no provisions in case MacDonald Dettwiler, a private company, should change hands as happened a few months or a few years ago. I think it then became an American company. What would happen if it changed hands? Would its licence be cancelled? Can you imagine a satellite like RADARSAT-2, built with public funds by the Canadian Space Agency, being operated by a foreign private company? It is beyond comprehension that the Canadian government did not find it necessary to include in the bill dispositions ensuring that the company operating RADARSAT-2 remains in Canadian hands. We see it as sheer irresponsibility.

There is another problem which I alluded to earlier in my question to the parliamentary secretary and it is the fact that the legislation does not specify how priority of access to the images will be determined.

The prioritization is not framed in the operating criteria previously used with RADARSAT-2. Members will recall that these criteria ensured priority access to relevant departments—Environment, Natural Resources, Fisheries and Oceans—the provinces and the scientific community.

Now, there is no such assurance. At least, there is no mention in the bill of priority access for the departments, federal or Quebec, which are the largest users of remote sensing data, or for the scientific community.

Previously, with RADARSAT-1, the Canadian Space Agency was the one setting and managing priorities. Now, the management of the satellite will be in the hands of a private company, as I said earlier. This private company might establish its priorities based on the primary objective of private companies: profit. And this primary objective may well be contrary to the interest of common good and Canadian and Quebec interests where the provinces are concerned. So, one would have expected Bill C-25 to clearly provide an order of priority for access to the images, but it does not.

As I said, while several questions remain unanswered, officials have been working on this bill for five years already. I am not criticizing them. The fact is that, clearly, there has been a lack of transparency. The bill was introduced suddenly. There was, on the part of the government and the parliamentary secretary, a feeling of urgency to rush this bill through the various stages of consideration at committee and in Parliament.

As I indicated, the bill was put together so quickly that, when my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île contacted Ferdinand Beaulne, director of the large remote sensing research centre in Canada, therefore someone who is really closely involved with the whole remote sensing file, he was not even aware of the existence of Bill C-25. This means that he had never been consulted by officials or the government on the drafting of Bill C-25.

On the other hand, Mr. Giroux, who is the director of external relations at the Canadian Space Agency, has told us several times that MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates and its subsidiary RADARSAT International Inc., together the Agency's private partner in the RADARSAT-2 program, was consulted extensively during the development of the bill before us. This is somewhat problematic since, as I mentioned to you, the specific purpose of Bill C-25 is to provide a framework for the activities of a single company, namely MacDonald Dettwiler, the only company consulted. In fact, potential subcontractors or clients of MacDonald Dettwiler appeared before the committee to share their concerns about their interests not being taken into account in the industry's development. As far as I can see, everyone in the House agrees that this industry is extremely promising for Canada and Quebec.

Therefore, my party believes that we should have taken a bit more time to involve more people in the process and to have a strong bill.

I mentioned a short while ago in my question that provinces are considered as simple clients and do not have priority access, as was the case before, when they had nearly free access. I want to talk some more about this, since it is the third problem element. The provinces, who are the main buyers of remote sensing images, had even invested in RADARSAT-1. As I mentioned earlier, remote sensing is linked to numerous provincial jurisdictions, such as natural resources, agriculture and the environment. In fact, you, Mr. Speaker, are just as aware of this reality as I am.

As I said, the bill does not explicitly mention an agreement with the provinces, and so we believe it is necessary to change this through an amendment. I think this is a major deficiency in Bill C-25.

There is one other aspect I believe is important, namely, the use that some private-sector or government clients may make of RADARSAT-2 and its remote sensing images. One would have expected the government to comply with the summary, where it is said that remote sensing space systems are regulated “to ensure that their operation is neither injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces—”. One would have expected a control mechanism on the export of those remote sensing data, just as there still are on exports of products of a military nature in Canada.

In fact, there are guidelines. There is a policy to control exports of military goods and technology to countries we want banned from receiving such exports. I have introduced an amendment which, I thought, simply reflected common sense, that is to say that we make sure that countries that are a threat in terms of Canadian military exports are also covered in the area of remote sensing.

As an example, members know that Canada rigorously controls exports of military goods and technology to countries that constitute a threat to itself and its allies; to those that are involved in a conflict or that might be shortly; to those that have had sanctions imposed by the Security Council of the United Nations; to those where human rights are seriously and repeatedly violated by the government, unless it can be demonstrated that the population is under no reasonable risk.

If it is good for the export of military goods and services, it should also have been good for remote sensing images which the government feels must be covered by Bill C-25.

I admit that I found this very hard to understand. As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, I felt that this issue was brushed aside because the government, for reasons that are unknown to me, even though I have a pretty good idea, needs to have Bill C-25 passed as quickly as possible. I think it has to do with the agreement with the United States whereby Canada made the commitment to create a framework for this private corporation, and I am very concerned about that.

Regarding the archiving of data, which will be dealt with in the regulations, we know that this type of high resolution remote sensing can be an invasion of privacy and can be used to compromise the freedom of our fellow citizens. This is why we would have preferred that provisions dealing with the archiving of data be included in the bill itself. The government kept exclusive control over this area by putting it in the regulations. Several experts, including a legal expert and a scientist specialized in Earth observation, pointed out the importance of such archiving of data when they came before the committee.

In the case of the environment and the climate, it is extremely important that all the data be kept year after year. What will that private company do with the images? It will probably consider that the management of these data will cost too much. Consequently, after two years, it will get rid of a whole series of extremely important images.

For example, we were told that in order to be able to measure the warming of the planet or problems concerning the ozone layer, researchers must be able to go back in time to compare series of data. Of course, that will cost money, as I have already said, but a private commercial operator should be required to inform National Archives of his intention to get rid of a number of images. There are no provisions in the legislation in that regard.

In conclusion, we deplore the fact that the Canadian Space Agency has been partly stripped of the management of RADARSAT-2. We believe that the Canadian Space Agency must play an important role. Consequently, because there are no provisions in the bill establishing priority criteria, because nothing in the bill ensures that RADARSAT-2 will not be sold to foreign interests, because there was a lack of transparency at the drafting and consideration stages, because the interests of provinces, particularly Quebec, are not protected, because scientific advances are put at risk by Bill C-25, because there are no consultations with the provinces and the departments involved, as I said in my introduction, the Bloc Quebecois will vote against Bill C-25.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Helena Guergis Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to Bill C-25. In June 2000 Canada made a commitment under the Canada-United States agreement concerning the operation of commercial remote sensing satellite systems. Bill C-25 intends to augment the commitment made five years ago in the form of upgraded technology.

Private remote sensing satellite systems are used to analyze groundwater, agriculture, forestry and oceanography, natural resources and industries that are very important to Canada. They also can be used to map topography, what kind of land is where and what the soil is like.

Remote sensing satellite systems can also be used to monitor forest fires, thus it will hopefully serve to save many provinces money in the forest fire prevention portions of their budgets and even some people's homes. This will be done by locating a fire still in its infancy.

They can also be used to monitor our borders and assist our border security officers. At the same time, they promote co-operation between ourselves and the United States while still firmly establishing our sovereignty over Canadian soil.

Initially it will cost $1.3 million to set this up and it will take eight to nine staff members to run this program through the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of National Defence and Canada's National Space Agency. The Conservative Party finds this reasonable and believes it represents good value for Canada. It will allow for ongoing research and is especially beneficial to Canadians because it will ensure that Canada will have the most up to date technology. That means there will continue to be high tech, long term opportunities for our citizens. Our post-secondary institutions will also benefit by this because they will have to continue to teach, research and explore this technology so we can continue to develop.

Ongoing research in space opens up new capacities daily regarding the details of natural and human events everywhere on earth. A few short years ago it would have been inconceivable to think about legislation that would govern satellites in space taking pictures of our movements.

The government has a role to play regarding the privacy matters of its citizens. The government needs to know who is scanning the nation, what kind of information they are coming up with and what kind of capabilities are out there. Originally we had concerns about privacy, but the legislation, as amended, deals with this and privacy is protected.

We also are pleased it has secured a proper place for the private sector and scientific and industrial activity as does its commitment to defence of the nation and the hemisphere from military threats from abroad and from terrorist activities conceived at home or abroad.

The official opposition believes the government has done its job to protect the privacy of Canadian citizens while not compromising the security of the nation by having brought the bill to the standing committee where it was examined clause by clause. We have eliminated any language that we thought detrimental to both citizens and national security.

Given the amendments made to the bill in committee, we support the legislation.